Players, Bumps and Cocktail Sausages (Silence #3)

Players, Bumps and Cocktail Sausages (Silence #3)

Natasha Preston


For Roy.

Grumpiest, silliest old sod I’ve ever met but with a heart of gold.

Love you, Grandad.

Chapter One

“Everleigh!” I shouted. Jesus, my niece was like a fucking ninja! She just appeared and disappeared whenever she wanted to, and when I least expected it.

“It’s not funny anymore, come out.” I walked into the kitchen again to see if she was hiding in a cupboard, although she didn’t like to hide in the same place too often. “Everleigh, I’ll give you chocolate ice cream.”

My phone vibrated in my pocket, and I prayed it wasn’t my sister calling to talk to her daughter. I was running out of excuses as to why a three-year-old couldn’t come to the phone. If I told Oakley it was because I had – yet again – misplaced her only child in my house, she would flip the fuck out.

I sighed in relief when my wife’s name flashed up on the screen: Abby.

“Hey, babe,” I said.

“Hi. I’ve been invited to dinner with a few colleagues, is that okay? We don’t have anything on, do we?”

Great, I’ll fend for my-fucking-self then!

I frowned and replied, “Yeah, it’s fine. I’ll probably hang around Oakley’s until she feeds me when I drop Everleigh off.”

Or eat alone. Again.

Abby laughed. “Lucky Oakley! How is Everleigh?”

If I could find her, I could ask…

“She’s fine,” I replied and opened the downstairs bedroom wardrobe to search for her. I couldn’t quite remember how long ago it was that she hid in her bedroom, so I wasn’t sure if looking here was productive or not.

Bloody kids!

“Is she being good? Didn’t Cole and Oakley say she was having a ‘no’ phase?”

She was. There was no getting her to do what she didn’t want to. I think it was Oakley’s fault; she had always told her she never had to do anything she didn’t want to. We all knew it was because of what she’d been through, but it did mean Everleigh got away with murder sometimes. Plus, all she had to do was look up at me with her big blue eyes, and I was done.

Everleigh’s high-pitched scream made my heart stop and the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. Shit! I turned on my heel and sprinted towards the noise.

“Everleigh?” I shouted as I ran to the living room, shoving the door open.

She jumped off the sofa, landing in front of me and shouted, “Roar!”

“What the...!” She burst into a fit of giggles and jumped up and down. “What was that? Why did you scream? You scared the sh-sugar me!” I scowled.

She shoved her hands on her hips – a mini diva. Oakley was never like that when we were kids, even before... “You were taking too long to find me.”

I blinked, shocked. “So you screamed bloody murder to get my attention?”

“What does bwoody mean?”

Damn it. “Err, that doesn’t mean anything. I said… blonde.”

“No, you didn’t.”

“I did,” I countered.

“No, you didn’t.”

“I did.”

“No, you didn’t.”

Sighing, I ran my hand through my hair. “If you pretend I didn’t and don’t tell your parents I’ll give you sweets.”

She smiled and skipped out of the room, replying, “Deal, Uncle Jasper.”

I just got owned by a three-year-old. Abby shouting my name made me realise she was still on the phone, which I was clutching in my hand, so now I was in trouble with my wife. I grimaced.

“Hi, beautiful.”

“Jasper Dane, what on earth was that? Is she okay?”

Is she okay? I almost had a heart attack!

“She’s fine. I’ll see you later tonight then.”


“I love you.”

“Love you too,” she replied and hung up.

“Uncle Jasper, where are the sweeties?”

“Change of plan, we’re going out,” I called back.

Everleigh appeared in front of me, making me jump.

“Where?” she asked.

“You do realise you’re the child, and I’m the adult, don’t you? You have to do what I say.”

She shook her head. “Nana said you’re as mature as a two-year-old.”

“Did she now?”

“Yep, and she said I looks after you more than you looks after me.”

I grabbed her coat off the bannister. “Well, I’ll be having a word with Nana later. Shoes on. Let’s go.”

Everleigh was quiet in the car. She always looked out of the window, silently taking everything in. Sometimes I would take her for a drive just for a little bit of peace and quiet. As exhausting as looking after her was I wouldn’t have it any other way. I loved hanging out with her.

I pulled up at Cole’s office and noticed that Oakley’s car was there too.

“Are we seeing Daddy?” Everleigh asked.

“Yeah but only for a minute, he has to work. Mummy’s here too.”

Everleigh cheered and pulled at her seat belt.

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